Thursday, April 9, 2009

"Member Democracy," SEIU-style...

This is what we in KaiPerm and CHW have to look forward to over the next year and a half, as Zombie UHW busily tries to ram through some (or any) contract that will lock the workers and the dues up for years at a time, while they can give gobs of money and benefits back to the employers, cheat us out of our years-earned pension benefits, and then turn around and beat their collective chest about how they have achieved a Great Victory for Member Democracy.

Y'all just remember that when your wages are going down courtesy of SEIU, especially in a time in which, because of increased taxes on the federal and state level combined with inflationary pressures due to 8+ years of deficit spending, meaning that the actual value of the dollar is going to be going down-down-down, and it'll take more of them to maintain your current economic level.

This, in SEIU World, is called "Member Democracy."
Over the past few days, SEIU leaders carried out a campaign of secret negotiations, sellout deals and rigged membership votes in an effort to impose a top-down contract settlement on hundreds of nursing home workers in Northern California.

The actions - which affect workers at seven nursing homes operated by for-profit Foresight Management Services - are an example of precisely the kind of undemocratic behavior that SEIU-UHW was fighting prior to the trusteeship. The recent events also underscore the key philosophical differences between SEIU's leaders and the tens of thousands of rank-and-file workers who have formed NUHW.

Here's what happened: On Friday, twenty members of the nursing home workers' elected bargaining committee arrived at SEIU-UHW's Oakland office for scheduled contract negotiations with the company. In the previous negotiating session, which took place before the trusteeship, the elected committee had rejected the company's proposal on wages and benefits, which was far lower than the standards already won by other SEIU-UHW nursing home workers. Following those negotiations, workers terminated a temporary extension of their prior contract and began preparing for a strike.

On Friday, when the bargaining committee arrived for its next negotiating session, SEIU Executive Vice President Mary Kay Henry and other SEIU leaders prohibited them from attending the negotiations by literally locking them out on the sidewalk in front of the union's office.

Meanwhile, inside the office, SEIU leaders were meeting with company executives and a few workers who had been hand-picked by SEIU leaders to take the place of the elected bargaining committee. These few workers represented only three of the seven nursing homes. Workers had gotten wind of two of SEIU's hand-picked members, and 70% of their co-workers had signed a petition expressing no confidence in them as bargaining committee members.

Locked out on the sidewalk, the elected bargaining committee began picketing the union's office. After TV news cameras showed up, SEIU officials quickly invited the committee inside, and members believed they were finally going to be allowed to participate in their own negotiations.

Instead, SEIU officials took the bargaining committee to a separate room and told them they could not attend negotiations unless they signed a loyalty oath to SEIU's leaders and also rescinded their signatures on NLRB petitions requesting to join NUHW.

Horrified, the bargaining committee was back on the sidewalk, picketing and chanting. Workers eventually left, but hours later they delivered an even stronger message by serving their employer with a ten-day notice for a 24-hour strike at all seven nursing homes.

Inside the negotiations at SEIU-UHW's Oakland office, SEIU leaders accepted the exact company proposal that the elected bargaining committee had rejected in January. The deal includes wages that are 30% lower than those won by other SEIU-UHW nursing home workers before the trusteeship.

With a strike notice hanging over their heads, SEIU leaders rushed to conduct a rigged membership ratification vote on their secretly negotiated agreement. How was the vote rigged?

SEIU failed to provide any advance notice to members about the vote, which was held the following day (Saturday). SEIU misrepresented the details of the proposed agreement and also barred large numbers of workers from casting ballots. For example, when workers from the afternoon shift arrived at work and attempted to vote, SEIU announced that the polls had closed. And at the conclusion of balloting, SEIU officials refused to count the ballots in front of workers, as is common practice.

Workers immediately began circulating a petition to demand that SEIU re-run the ratification vote in a democratic and transparent fashion, with full disclosure of all of the terms of SEIU's substandard agreement.

SEIU has yet to announce the results of Saturday's profoundly flawed vote. Given SEIU's behavior, many workers fear that union officials may have stuffed the ballot box so they can implement a contract that, by all accounts, will be applauded by company owners and widely opposed by SEIU-UHW's own members.
Peer-elected negotiators locked out. Union-selected "bargaining representatives" bussed in. Intimidation. Vote fixing. Rushed negotiations. Givebacks.

That is "Member Democracy," SEIU style.

And THAT, my friends, is why SEIU can never allow an up-or-down vote on its conduct of the Trusteeship - they know they'll get their asses kicked to the street.

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